In the recent past, when treating sleep-related disorders such as insomnia, doctors would prescribe benzodiazepines such as Klonopin or Valium. However, as time has proven these drugs to carry a high risk of addiction and abuse, non-benzodiazepine sleep aids such as Lunesta, Ambien, and Sonata have become the replacement drugs of choice for those suffering from sleep issues.
While Sonata and other “Z-drugs” like it are thought to carry a lower risk of potential dependence and fewer side effects, it is still very chemically similar to a benzodiazepine, especially in how it alters the brain.
However, because it is seen as the comparatively safer option, it is almost too easy for someone to develop a psychological and physical dependence without even realizing that they are misusing it.
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Sonata is the brand name sleeping-pill of zaleplon, a short-acting non-benzodiazepine compound. Sonata, like other sleep aids, has an extremely short half-life, coming on quickly and lasting for a brief amount of time, typically between 45 and 60 minutes. Which means that it helps to induce sleep in an individual, but not to keep them asleep.
Sonata, also referred to by recreational users as “downers,” “tranks,” and “sleepeasy,” works much like most benzodiazepines do, binding itself to the brain’s GABA receptors. GABA is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for inhibiting nerve impulses and reducing neuron activity, in other words, reducing stress and calming the body down.
What differentiates Z-drugs like Sonata from benzodiazepines is that Sonata binds to very specific GABA receptors for the sole purpose of initiating sleep, while benzos will bind themselves to a wider variety of GABA receptors for a general anti-anxiety effect. This also means that there is less of a “hangover effect” the next morning after taking Sonata.
Ironically, Sonata’s status as one of the weaker sleep aids is part of what makes it such a prime target for abuse, especially accidental, as someone might take significantly more than the prescribed dosage to achieve the same effects as other sleep aids. Also, since it is one of the fastest-acting sleep aids currently available, its short half-life makes for easy recreational overuse, with some users even breaking the capsules and snorting the contents to bring the euphoric “rush” and potential hallucinatory effects on even faster.
Like other non-benzodiazepine sedatives, Sonata can trigger some unnerving side effects such as sleep-eating, sleep-intercourse, and sleep-driving, all without the individual remembering them in the morning, and even in those who showed no previous disposition toward sleepwalking. Forcing yourself to stay awake after taking Sonata (which is how recreational users achieve the hallucinatory effects) only raises the risks of these somnambulatory behaviors.
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The typical recommended dosage of Sonata is 10 milligrams, with others only needing doses as small as five milligrams. When someone begins regularly abusing Sonata in doses higher than these recommended amounts, it doesn’t take long for both tolerance and dependency to form, especially if they are snorting, inhaling, or otherwise ingesting it by other means than prescribed.
Common signs and symptoms of Sonata addiction that are indicative of dependency and increasing abuse include:
In line with these physical signs of Sonata addiction, there are also common behavioral warning signs that will appear as well, including:
If you’ve experienced at least three of these symptoms, or have seen them in someone you know, you should seek out professional help for Sonata addiction as soon as possible to avoid overdose as well as mental and physical damage caused by prolonged abuse.
Below is a breakdown of Sonata addiction treatment:
Even though Sonata is considered fairly low on the scale of addictive sleeping pills, it is still recommended that individuals suffering from Sonata dependency begin treatment with medical detoxification at a professional medical treatment center.
Sonata’s withdrawal symptoms are dependent on how long and severe someone’s abuse of the drug has been and can include convulsions, seizures, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors, which can be brought on by the sudden shock to the brain’s GABA receptors that comes with stopping use completely.
To avoid these dangers, as well as the risk of relapse from a needlessly uncomfortable withdrawal, those detoxing from Sonata should instead safely taper down Sonata doses to the point where it is safe to stop using it.
After detox, it is essential that the patient follows up with some form of residential treatment to avoid an immediate relapse. Therapy and counseling in a secure and drug-free environment can help not only by getting to the root of an individual’s addictive behaviors but also by helping provide the tools they need to help with the sleep difficulties they will be left with after stopping Sonata.
Some treatment specific to Sonata addiction and trying to holistically aid sleep-related disorders might include:
Addiction is a lifelong disease that isn’t “cured” in the conventional sense, it is only treated. After residential treatment, many people simply return home to the triggers and stressors that led them to addiction in the first place. By participating in outpatient treatment regularly while living at home, you can take the necessary steps to help avoid relapse and espouse long-term sobriety.
As previously mentioned, just using Sonata at the prescribed dose can still cause unconscious behavior, blackouts, memory loss, and in some people, even suicidal thoughts and behavior. These dangers are only magnified for people who abuse Sonata at high doses.
Another danger unique to “Z-drugs” is what is known as “rebound insomnia,” which is when someone attempts to stop using Sonata only to be hit with insomnia significantly worse than what they experienced prior to using.
This can trap someone in a cycle of addiction and withdrawal as they unsuccessfully try to quit using Sonata, and only highlights the importance of detoxing under the care of a medical professional.
Common symptoms of Sonata overdose and abuse are generally the same as most sedatives and include: